World of Elegance for the win!

Volume 16 of Oh My Goddess! has a good mix of stories, and the first half of a much better story arc [1]. As an added bonus the cover features Urd and World of Elegance.

Chapter 91 I Want to Hold Your Hand resolves the issue of Belldandy and Keiichi being stuck together, and also the question of whether goddesses get hangovers [2]. It starts with the still attached pair waking up in the same room before an ill advised tug leads to Belldandy lying on top of Keiichi.

Just as Keiichi starts thinking that this being attached isn’t so bad they are interrupted by a none-too-pleased Skuld [3].  This sets the tone of the chapter of highlighting all the things that can go wrong in a situation like this such as Keiichi needing to go to the toilet, and Belldandy needing to perform the daily ablutions required of a goddess [4].  This chapter also includes the various attempts by Skuld and Urd to separate them, the less said about which the better from Keiichi and Belldandy’s perspective [5].

More importantly Keiichi ends up having a nightmare [6] related to separation from Belldandy, and nervousness over his new job at Chihiro’s shop Whirlwind.  The nightmare reminds Keiichi that Sora had been supersized whilst Belldandy was drunk.  This is a fairly classic “oops” moment so Keiichi and Belldandy head to Whirlwind to check on the aftermath of the party.  Sora is back to normal,and it looks like the wish to never let go is the only one that hasn’t broken.

Along the way Keiichi apologises for his nervousness about the change in his life, but Belldandy expresses her faith that having opened the door to the future that Keiichi will step through.  As the party is being cleaned up Chihiro offers Belldandy the admin job for the workshop, and suddenly their hands separate.  It turns out the real fear of separation was on Belldandy’s part this time, and it is Keiichi’s turn to reassure Belldandy.

On some levels this is a fairly lightweight chapter full of cheap Seinen gags.  That said I quite like it for the depth beneath the gags, and the sense that this is a gateway chapter.  I Want to Hold Your Hand marks the transition from student to worker, and also tests the strength of the core relationship to deal with changing circumstances.  On that level it is a successful, and well written, chapter.

Chapter 92 Welcome! is about Banpei falling in love with a Welcome robot.  It works well because Banpei is oddly endearing, and there are hints about Skuld learning some painful lessons about life and love.  The Welcome Robot is essentially a mannequin that looks like a young girl that bows and welcomes visitors to a shop.  It is clearly old [7] and the old lady that runs the convenience store resorts to percussive maintenance to reboot as needed.

Once Skuld finds that Banpei is sneaking off to see the Welcome Robot, she becomes convinced that he is buggy, especially when his activities are in a locked system file that Skuld cannot access.  It is Belldandy that advises Skuld that her programming was good, and would Skuld want someone looking into her heart?  This is the first half of the lesson for Skuld, particularly when she makes a comment about having made Banpei.  Mix in some good gags [8] and this is a fun chapter with hints of character development.

Chapter 93 The Sorrows of Banpei starts with an anguished Skuld returning to the temple after realising the depth of Banpei’s feelings for the Welcome Robot, and unable to understand why she has never seen Banpei this way.  It is Belldandy that points out that people in love have a side that they only show to the person that they love, including Skuld and Sentaro [9], and that this proves that Banpei is alive.

This is when disaster strikes: Banpei and Skuld learn that the Welcome Robot finally broke down for good and has been junked by the old lady.  The attempt to get to the junk yard in time is not a success, and Banpei begins to mourn.

This is where Skuld learns the next lesson: that a true love cannot be replaced, and building a copy of the Welcome Robot would not be a good idea.

Of course, Oh My Goddess! being the manga that it is, it turns out that Chihiro actually got to the junkyard first and that Keiichi has already repaired the Welcome Robot.

Chapter 94 The Boy Who Knows the Goddesses is the start of a multiple chapter story that concludes in the next volume.  I can see a lot of the inspiration for the Oh My Goddess!  movie in this arc. It includes suppressed memories on Belldandy’s part, someone messing with the main system of Yggdrasil, and a much more sympathetic Peorth.  Overall this arc works quite well but I do have some concerns about the implications for the continuity [10].

The chapter begins with Peorth in aerial combat with something, and getting soundly beaten.  As Peorth starts falling from the sky she calls out a warning to Belldandy.  At the temple Belldandy definitely hears something but isn’t sure what.

This is followed by the Lord of Yggdrasil calling the temple phone to summon Urd and Skuld back to Yggdrasil to deal with a system fault [11].    This leaves Belldandy and Keiichi alone in the Temple but things immediately start getting strange with a sudden scene (and clothing) change that leaves both surprised.

Oh, and the arrival of a child who seems to know Belldandy although the reverse is not true.  Whenever this unnamed child is about time itself seems to be messed up in some very strange ways.

This odd time distortion continues in Chapter 95 Strange Things Are Happening, along with the child’s strong attraction to Belldandy triggering Keiichi’s suspicion. One of the nice things going on here is the child showing up at Whirlwind where he completely wraps Chihiro around his finger [12], and this helps to distract Keiichi and Belldandy from what is going on.  Meanwhile in Yggdrasil Skuld and Urd are attempting to fix the system and are not getting very far, but the problem is definitely related to the time management system.  The problem is also manifesting on Earth when Belldandy tries, but fails, to connect to Yggdrasil to talk to Urd.

Chapter 96 Memories of a Youth continues the slow build of the time distortions, and adds Belldandy collapsing on several occasions.  During these collapses she starts dreaming of the past, but the dreams are still unclear.  The child also falls unconscious on the same occasions as Belldandy begins to remember him.  There are also a couple of continuity nods as Keiichi starts wondering if the sleepiness indicates that something is draining Belldandy’s powers.

Chapter 97 The Goddesses’ Greatest Danger provides further hints at how bad things are in Yggdrasil, whilst on Earth the time distortions have gotten equally bad. Meanwhile Keiichi has worked out that the child is not what he seems, and is avoiding water [13].  Keiichi takes the appropriate action revealing the child as a demon who then tries to kill Keiichi.

Cue Peorth’s timely return saying that it is payback time.

This ends the volume on a nice cliff hanger.  This story arc has a relatively slow build of the crisis, but I’m finding that the pacing works quite well.  I suspect that the real sense of mystery underpinning the threat is the main reason for why the pacing is working as well as it is.

This is a solid, but not spectacular, volume of Oh My Goddess! It does feature some nice character development on Skuld’s part, and starts an effective transition from Nekomi Tech to Whirlwind as the centre of the action.  Peorth also works much better as a character when working as a responsible goddess, rather than just messing with Keiich and Belldandy.

In many ways though Volume 16 is primarily a set up for Volume 17; many of the stories in this volume are not fully resolved until the next volume.

[1] Apparently I’m still not over the bloat in the Queen Sayoko story.  Soon I promise!

[2] They don’t.  Well Belldandy doesn’t seem to at least.

[3] Insert “if looks could kill” joke here.

[4] That one involves a blindfold, Keiichi’s overactive imagination, and Skuld’s debugging mallet.

[5] Skuld’s “Basic Matter Separator” looks remarkably like a knife, and there are hints of a chainsaw later.  Urd’s efforts involve the usual potions, and may be even less reassuring than Skuld’s apparent predilection for the sharp and pointy.

[6] Courtesy of Skuld’s debugging mallet, which raises interesting questions about what else that mallet can debug…

[7] It doesn’t look old.

[8] Mostly at Urd’s expense, for which Skuld will be paying later.

[9] When Skuld denies this, Belldandy’s slightly smug “Oh really?” is priceless.

[10] This will probably be discussed in the next review, so consider this a teaser.

[11] This involves the still-suspended Urd using her powers which may be a continuity glitch on Fujishima’s part.

[12] Chihiro is completely helpless in the face of cute kids, etc, which is why she let the gang have the Welcome Robot.

[13] The first sign of which was avoiding a bath with a Belldandy.